11 Ridiculous Laws across Asia You Won’t Believe are Real

Feb 29, 2020 | China, CULTURE, GOV, Indonesia, Japan, N.Korea, Singapore, Thailand

The Gum Wall – Pike Place Market, Seattle ©Ken Walton

Immersing yourself in a new culture is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have. However, this can backfire if you haven’t done enough research. Take a look at some of the most absurd laws in Asia that will get you in trouble.

Laws are made to ensure that a country runs smoothly. Similarly, the internet is made to examine these laws! Whichever part of the world you are in, there are absurd, quirky, and slightly nonsensical laws that will make you scratch your head in confusion. 

Whether it’s chewing gum or being reincarnated, baffling laws in Asia might land you in jail. Yikes! Take a look at these laws below.  

Walking in the House Naked is Illegal in Singapore

You may be familiar with that feeling – after a long and tiring day at work, there is nothing better than taking off your clothes and feeling free. If you love to celebrate your body by walking around naked in the comfort of your own home or hotel, you better be careful. 

Just like other countries, pornography is also illegal in Singapore. However, there is one aspect of this law in the country that might cost you $2,000 or 3 months in prison. According to 27A of the Public Order and Nuisance Act, appearing naked in a private place and is exposed to public view is criminally liable. In Singapore, doing this even if you are alone is considered pornography so make sure to keep your curtains down.

Singapore ©Luca Sartoni

Singapore is a Gum-Free Zone

Yes, one of the most famous law in  Singapore, with limited exception of nicotine or dental gum, you can’t chew gums in Singapore. Finding non-medicinal gums is also impossible in the country. If caught chewing gum, prepare to spend 2 years in prison or pay a fine. Before you board a flight going to this country, ensure that there’s no gum in your bag since it might get in trouble with airport security. Fines for selling gum is as high as $100,000.

This law which started in 1992 also covers sugar-free gum. It came to be due to vandals in the public housing sector. Gums were placed in keyholes, elevator buttons, and even mailboxes. This made way for high repair costs and maintenance issues. 

In China, Visit Your Parents or Else You’ll get Arrested

Thinking about skipping to visit your parents on both their birthday and New Year? Good thing you’re not in China. Known as the Elderly Rights Law, adult children in the country are required by law to visit their aging parents. 

This 2013 law may seem weird, but it has several purposes including preventing loneliness among old people. Chinese people view families as an integral part of their lives, and the law simply highlights their tradition. Because the law does not point out a specific number of visits per year, it’s hard to implement it. This is why reports are usually ended with a peaceful settlement. 

Shanghai, China ©Henrik Berger Jørgensen

In Indonesia, it is Illegal to Masturbate

Masturbation is illegal in many parts of the globe. However, the punishment in Indonesia will have you shaking in fear. If you masturbate, you can spend up to 32 months in prison – that’s close to 3 years of jail time.  If you’re wondering how the police are trained to watch out for those who do the crime, we’ll leave the answer to your imagination.  

Japan’s Metabo Law

Japan is a paradise for foodies, but have you ever seen an obese Japanese aside from Sumo wrestlers? We doubt it. Japan boasts one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. Thanks to its traditional diet rich in vegetables, fish, and rice, as well as their love for walking, Japanese people find it easy to maintain their normal weight despite the obesity epidemic in the west. Adding to their healthy diet and penchant for staying active is the Metabo law.

The Metabo Law was introduced in 2008 by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. This law requires women and men aged 40 to 74 to have their waistlines measured every year. The expected results are shocking – 35.4 inches for women, and 33.5 inches for men. Although this law is mandated by the government, it won’t land you in jail.  Companies will give weight-loss classes to their overweight employees.   

Shibuya, Tokyo ©Serena Tang

Cheating in Bangladesh will Lead You to Jail

How many times did you cheat in high school? In Bangladesh, the answers of students may be very different from yours. The country takes this offense very seriously. In fact, children more than 15 years old can be jailed when they cheat on their final examination. This law is enacted by the government to stop future cheaters. Do you think other countries should make a law similar to this? 

Keep Your Underwear on in Thailand

If you’re heading to Thailand, make sure to pack enough underwear since it is illegal to go commando outside of your home. While this law may be harder to enforce than others, you wouldn’t want to get caught breaking it. Don’t worry, there hasn’t been any reports of foreigners caught without underwear.  

It is Illegal for Buddhists to get Reincarnated in China

Looks like China can decide who can come back from the dead. Referred to as one of the most ridiculous acts of totalitarianism in the world, it is illegal for Buddhists monks from Tibet to get reincarnated without permission from the government. The law came into effect in 2015 and is an attempt to institutionalize management of reincarnation. 

This law was enacted by China to cut off the wide-reaching influence of the Dalai Lama. It would also give China the power to choose who the next Dalai Lama will be, whose soul is said to be reborn to continue his work. However, according to the Dalai Lama, he refuses to be reincarnated in Tibet. So if there are two Dalai Lamas in the future, this law is to be blamed.  

North Korea’s Three Generations Rule

If someone breaks the law in North Korea, their punishment will not only be targeted towards them but their entire family. For example, if someone is sentenced to do service in a prison camp, all his children, parents, and even grandparents will also do the same. This is done to punish the rest of the family for faulty upbringing. 

This brutal law was first introduced in 1972 and aims to eradicate the “seed” of class enemies. If you are wondering what crimes can lead to a punishment as severe as this, the answer will shock you even more. It includes not wiping the dust off Kim II-Sung’s portraits and talking to someone from South Korea. Talk about harsh!  

It is not Allowed to Wear Blue Jeans in North Korea

It turns out, being a fashionista in North Korea might land you in jail. This law is associated with the country’s aim to reject influence from the outside world. The jeans you usually find in North Korea are black.

This part of the world views blue jeans as a symbol of American values and capitalism. While this law is not enacted for tourists, they will still be forced to change if they visit the leader’s memorial site.  

New Year in Cambodia

There’s no denying that Cambodia is a lively place. Every New Year, the country becomes even more alive thanks to numerous street parties and celebrations. However, you may want to skip packing your water guns if you want to welcome the New Year here. Since 2001, it has been illegal to sell and import these toys in the country to prevent social unrest and security issues.

Review These Laws Again Before Visiting Asia

Every country you visit has its own set of laws that tourists and citizens have to respect and follow. While these laws may be too outrageous to put to heart, you still have to follow it if you don’t want to run into trouble.